So Will waited. “Get out of my way,” he heard Sansa say. “My business is with—“ A shot rang out.
But Julian was alive. Sansa was the one curled up in a ball at his feet.
She set Meg down on the doorstep. Death’s scythe hung over Meg’s body, and the otherworldly black cloud that followed him around billowed around her.
This Hme, the woman turned around. Jocelyn stared. She deﬁnitely looked like Ali. She had the same features. But she had frozen, and her eyes looked so cold.
“That’s enough. Break it up.” Kevin stepped between Sabriel and Will. “Will Stark, you’re under arrest for the murder of Sansa Stark. You need to come with us now.” “I didn’t—“ “Now.”
“No.” Will shook his head. “I am not going back to college.”
“You see the way you’re refusing?” Lily asked. “That’s how we know Piper will never look for you there.” “Those were the worst years of my life. Except for—“ Really, which was worse? Life in a windowless, ﬂoor‐less box without anything he needed, or Piper?
Lily had set Will up in a mostly blue one‐story house on the edge of campus with all the necessary furniture and not much else. There were two single beds, so she must have given Will a roommate. He wanted to trust Lily’s judgment, but couldn’t do it completely. Just one roommate would be enough to give him away if it was the wrong one.
Will took a closer look at Sullivan. Sullivan. Fiance who was an actor. Of course. Of all the students at this university, Lily had chosen Will’s future brother‐in‐law to be his roommate. Maybe everything was going to be okay.
Will woke from the nightmare into what felt like a second one. He wasn’t in his bedroom. Where had Piper taken him? But when Will turned on the light next to his bed, he remembered. Oldtown. Sean Cooper. Sullivan sleeping in the bed next to his. This would never be his home, but it trumped a prison cell and an unending ﬁght to hold onto his sense of self. For now, Will was safe.
He closed his eyes and saw the aHerimages of his nightmare. Any sense of security that Will had managed to gather for himself dissipated. Oldtown. Will had escaped miles away from his home. But he couldn’t help his family from here. He couldn’t even be with them. He closed his eyes again. No luck.
Apparently, Will had to be awake. He decided he might as well muddle his way through more physics. If nothing else, the equaMons would lull him to sleep.
He turned toward the study area, only to discover someone else siNng on his couch. He jumped.
Screams woke up Meg in the middle of the night. When she opened her eyes, she saw Lyra clutching her hand to her heart and gasping for breath. Something smelled bad. “What was that?” Meg asked. For once, Lyra lacked words.
“Meg doesn’t know something?” Gemma asked sarcasMcally. “That was Grandpa.” “He was really nice when he was alive,” Lirael observed. “Well, he’s the meanest of them all now. Look, he scared all of us tonight.”
Meg turned her eyes to her grandfather’s ghost as he ﬂoated past her. But as he passed by, the room changed. Meg couldn’t see her sisters anywhere. The beds faded away. She turned to see that everything looked blurry around the edges and that there wasn’t very much color leH. And when she turned back, she saw that Mal had become solid. He looked just as solid as her.
“No.” Will retreated toward the beds. “I’m hallucinaMng. It’s another nightmare. I need more sleep. You’re dead.” “I can’t die,” Sansa said, her voice curiously ﬂat.
“I saw you die.” Will should turn away and try to sleep again—unlikely. She would follow him. As he spoke, he began to realize the depth of his anger. “My uncle killed you. And then—then I was put in jail for killing you! I was kept in that cell for two days and told—by your friend—that I was betraying everything my family stood for because I wouldn’t lie and say I killed you!”
She turned to look at him. Only then did Will realize that Sansa had changed again. Her pale skin had lightened even further to the white of snow, and her gray eyes had become the deep blue of the clouded night sky. “Oh, Will,” she said. “You sMll don’t understand.”
“You’re my grandfather.” Meg stared up at him. “What’s going on? Where am I? Am I dead?”
Before she knew it, Mal had bent down to hug her. She hugged him back. Perhaps another kind of girl would be frightened about speaking to a ghost, but not her. “Oh, Meg,” he said to her. “I’m so glad you can hear me. I’ve been trying to tell all of you, but everyone else just screams and runs when I try to talk to them.”
“You scared Lyra,” Meg told him. “And Gemma and Lirael last night. I thought you were supposed to be nice.” “I am. I don’t like scaring them. But…” Mal scratched his head. “I had to get through to one of you, so I tried bringing you to the world of the dead for just a moment. I couldn’t do it with any of your sisters. But I have to warn you about her.” “Who?”
“The thing you fail to realize,” she said, “is that I never did any of those things to you. No one ever killed me. How could they, when I can’t die?” Will stepped back, unable to get out of the corner or even run out of his house like he knew he should. “What are you?”
“I am the winter,” she told him. “And winter never dies.”
“I call her Lady Winter,” Mal explained. “She…” “What’s wrong with her?” Meg asked. “Everything.” Meg waited.
“She tries to take your hope from you,” Mal eventually conMnued. “She’s the one who says that you’ll never be good enough—that you’ll never get the educaHon you want, you’re too nice, your children are going to starve and die.”
“But why would she do that?” Yet even as Meg talked, she thought of examples. The Law wanted to take hope from her. He couldn’t do it—but what about Gemma? She wasn’t very happy. Was that Lady Winter?
“Because she hates us.” Mal shook his head. “I thought I knew about hate when I was alive. But once I understood who and what Lady Winter is, I saw that I didn’t have a clue.” “Why does she hate us?” Meg pressed. “Because we have the potenMal to destroy her.”
“You’ve been trying to break me,” she whispered in his ear. “But I’ve broken you and your kind more Mmes than you can possibly imagine. You think you’re comfortable.” “No, I don’t.” “You think you’re safe in your Mny houses, with electricity lighMng up the night. You stuﬀ your faces with food and pretend that everything will be all right. But you won’t ever win, Will Stark. I make sure of it.”
“Win what?” She ignored him. “You’re in exile. You’re on your own playing with phone wires, as if they can bridge the communicaMon gaps that plague you. Your siblings are ﬁghMng a losing ba]le. Your children are on their own. No, it’s only a ma]er of Mme before you lose everything. You gave it a good try, but even the most valiant eﬀorts fail.”
“At ﬁrst, Lady Winter trusted in the fallout from the disaster to destroy us,” Mal explained. “The rising sense of hopelessness. The hunger. The lack of educaMon. The isolaMon. But those methods are failing her. As we ﬁx each of those things, she grows weaker.” “Then why do I have to be scared of her?” “Because she’s desperate. She’ll do anything to hang on to her power over us.”
Meg swallowed. “How do we destroy her?” “We carry on,” Mal said. “We keep ﬁxing the world. With each step forward our family takes, she loses more of her grip, unMl she falls away for good. But you have to be careful.”
That didn’t sound right. It couldn’t be that easy.
Will closed his eyes. He told himself to tune out everything that not‐Sansa was saying, just like he had done someMmes with Piper. He thought about Gemma, Meg, and the two babies who had been on their way. He thought about how capable Sabriel had always been and how Arthur must be bringing good cheer to his family, even now. He thought about everything he had already survived.
In their silence, Meg thought she saw movement out in the fuzzy edges of the washed‐out world she stood in with her grandfather. She tried to peer closer. Was that—yes! That was her birth. The Reaper touching her when he came for her grandmother. The whole of her life playing out on the edges. She could see more clearly from this vantage point than she could in her limited visions. She had to see more.
Will opened his eyes. He couldn’t see or hear the wintry woman anymore. But the cold lingered in his bones, so he knew she wasn’t enMrely gone. Her words lingered, too.
He took a physics book from the shelf and threw himself into studying. She had to be wrong.
“I need to return you now,” Mal said. “It’s not safe for you to be in my world while you’re alive. You can handle a few minutes because of the Reaper’s touch, but no more.” Meg kept looking at the edges. Was someone talking? “Meg.”
“Am I the heir?” she asked her grandfather. “That’s up to your dad,” he told her. “But it’s also up to you and your sisters. He’ll only choose you if you want to be chosen.” “Because I took it. But then there was a long dark spot and I was trying to decide whether to keep it.”
“Then that’s a choice you have to make,” Mal said to Meg, regret on his face. “Don’t let anyone or anything make it for you.” Meg frowned. “But I want to know.” “It’s your choice alone,” her grandfather reiterated. “Time to go back, Meg.”
Next Mme on An Apocalypse of Ice: + The revolt oﬃcially begins. + Arthur’s star conMnues to rise. + ValenMne looks for a way to help her mom.
So I made a deal with Mal. “I’ll include you in one of my updates,” I said, “and in return, you’ll stop scaring my sims.” He did. Unfortunately, the other ghosts weren’t parMes to that deal. But it was sMll nice to have him back for a li]le while. :D Happy Simming!